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Family Law - Children

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesFamily Law - Family, Origins Of Family Law, Marriage And Divorce, Children, Property In The Family


When couples have children, those children become stakeholders in the marriage. By the mid-twentieth century, most states assigned both parents equal responsibility for the support and care of their children. When a parent fails to provide adequate food, clothing, medical care, education, supervision, or general guidance, the parent may be found guilty of neglect and local welfare departments can conduct investigations. In neglect cases that persist, children can be placed for adoption. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act was passed by Congress in 1970. It provided extensive standards governing marriage, divorce, property, alimony, child support, and custody. In 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly which promoted children's legal rights as individuals. Issues focused on nutrition, health care, and other forms of protection. Numerous organizations sponsoring children's rights were established.

Collecting child support payments from an ex-spouse has long been a major issue in family law. Congress passed the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act to assist parents in collecting unpaid child support from ex-spouses residing in other states. The act proved ineffective due to high work loads and a low priority by local authorities. The ability of divorced parents to collect child support payments from unwilling (deadbeat) ex-spouses greatly increased in the 1990s. The Association for Children Enforcement of Support was formed to help find ex-spouses. Also, the Welfare Reform Act, which passed in 1996 and turned the major federal welfare program over to states, included provisions for a national deadbeat tracking system and required employers to report new hires to the state. Laws expanded to allow wages to be garnished, professional and drivers licenses revoked, retirement and welfare benefits withheld, and tax refunds and even lottery winnings redirected. In addition, liens could be placed on real estate and personal property, and bank accounts.

Children can also terminate legal ties to parental control through a declaration of "emancipation." They may then enter into contracts and purchase assets. Emancipation is normally considered automatic when serving on active duty in the military or holding a job and living apart from the family home.

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